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Student Evaluations of Professors

To counterbalance reviews on Web sites like (RMP), some institutions ponder publishing students’ evaluations of professors. Some professors express their concerns:

“One communications faculty member said there are studies that say negative comments linger longer than positive comments, and that a few bad comments could color the perception of that teacher disproportionately”

Thomas Bauman, professor of musicology and chair of the General Faculty Committee, said that faculty members are discussing whether there should be exceptions to any mandate, such as for adjuncts, or first-time teachers “who might feel they need a buffer of some kind.”

Yes, I have visited the website to check on professors and to check if anyone rated me for my teaching a few years ago (no one did). But to be honest, the reviews found there can’t be taken too seriously. Consider this:

  • Anyone with an e-mail can rate any professors at RMP. The site does not verify whether a rater is actually a student. I’ve never rated a professor but I wonder if it is possible that one person with multiple e-mails can post multiple reviews?
  • Rating is voluntary. My guess is that students that failed or struggled with a course are more likely to take the time and register their complaint than those that are satisfied with their experience.
  • Even university administered student evaluations of faculty have their share of problems.

Just out of curiosity, I checked the RMP reviews for my professors at RPI. One of my professors had only 1 review that said: “Excellent clarity”. Most of my classmates back then would disagree with that evaluation, but that person’s experience is the only one registered at the site. Good luck to whoever takes this professor’s class expecting clarity. :-)

RMP does maintain a funniest ratings list that is worth reading.

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